Meet Our 2021 Career Coaches in Residence
Toronto Public Library welcomes our 2021 Career Coaches in Residence (CCIR), Catherine Crawford and E-Lin Chen, who will be offering free 1-on-1 career counselling and job search help for younger adults (18 to 29) from September 13, 2021 to February 19, 2022. You can connect with a career coach over the phone or online. Coaches are available to answer any questions about career and job help – from resume best practices to advice on answering tough interview questions.
We reached out to Catherine and E-Lin to find out about their own career journeys, advice for job seekers and even their favourite books!
How did you get into Career Counselling initially? What's your favourite part of the job?
Catherine: I started my career at McMaster University where I held multiple roles in event planning, volunteer management, donor relations, and human resources. The feedback I received time and time again, was that I was a natural at relationship building, was able to connect easily with others, and I was compassionate. I also realized that helping others was what I enjoyed most about my day-to-day job tasks. When the opportunity presented itself to become a Career Strategist within human resources, I jumped on the opportunity, feeling that this was a great path for my own career. Since then, I have founded my own business called Career Advantage where I help clients with their career journey. It’s very fulfilling and I’m rewarded by seeing clients find career happiness. If starting a business is something you’ve thought about, I highly recommend checking out this year’s TPL Entrepreneur in residence.
My favourite part of career counselling is when I can help build a person’s confidence and teach them strategies to meet their goals. Individuals leave my sessions feeling as though they have found clarity and are well supported. That’s the best part of my job!
E-Lin: I stumbled upon career counselling. My childhood dream was to become a teacher because I wanted to help people and put my "outdoor" voice to good use. Volunteer and co-op experiences helped me realize that I was better in 1-on-1 settings rather than a large classroom. I also learned that helping people craft their résumés or practice for a job interview was very fulfilling and rewarding. More than ten years later, it still gives me great joy to support people in their career development and job search, whether it's to help them land their first job or their dream job.
What’s the biggest lesson you've learned on your career path?
Catherine: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that career paths don’t have to be linear. This means that it’s okay to try out new professions and take additional training as needed to support your career moves. Clients used to worry about how it would look on their résumé if they had a few different careers listed. Nowadays this can be seen as an advantage to some employers. Having diverse experiences means you bring a wealth of different sector knowledge and can demonstrate that you are a quick learner and can adapt easily. Knowing what your transferable skills are and how to best communicate that to a potential employer is important. Research suggests that Canadians may hold about 15 jobs in a lifetime today. More people in the job force are exploring new avenues of work and improving their job or career for various reasons. This can include a lack of interest in their current position, looking to upgrade their skills, financial, or even job location. LinkedIn Learning is a great way to freshen up on your training and improve your skills if you are thinking of a career change. It’s available for free with a library card.
E-Lin: Get comfortable with asking questions and asking for help. Earlier on in my career, I thought asking questions meant I was ill-prepared for work so I avoided it like the plague. I tried to figure everything out on my own which usually took way longer than necessary. I had to unlearn that asking questions and asking for help are not signs of weakness. Instead, I realized asking questions and asking for help let my colleagues and supervisors know I was interested and engaged. By asking questions, I received help and guidance ranging from Excel hacks to informal mentorship. Nowadays, I continue to ask questions and for help when I need it and also appreciate others when they do the same!
What advice would you give a young person starting out in their career?
Catherine: Network, network, network. Networking is by far the most effective job search technique. A staggering statistic is 90% of jobs are landed through networking. When you are looking to land your first job, reaching out to people you know can really help your job search efforts. Most jobs are found by the active approach of networking. It involves gathering information by talking to friends, relatives, former employers, colleagues – just about everyone you know - and can result in job leads. It’s important to remember though, networking does not involve asking anyone for a job. Its purpose is to continually build your network of people. Ultimately, your network would reach your preferred industry and allow you to discover employer or position needs. With each networking contact that provides you with information and names of other contacts, your visibility and news of your skillset grow.
E-Lin: At the risk of sounding corny, I always tell people the best angle to start their career is from the "try"-angle. I think of career development as a series of trial and error so don't hesitate to try on different hats. Be open-minded to different opportunities and don't take no as a final destination but rather a detour. Did not get the original job you applied to? Maybe there is another opportunity with the same organization you can try. Also, it's a tall order to find a job/career you will do for the rest of your life so I say lighten your load and aim to find a job/career you wouldn't mind trying for a little while and go from there.
What’s your favourite book on thriving in your work and career?
Catherine: Being intentional about what work you do and ensuring it aligns with your values and preferences, will help you thrive in your career. A fantastic book and one of the most popular career books on the market is What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles. The 2022 edition will be released later this year, which will feature the latest resources, case studies, and perspectives on today’s job market. It also reveals surprising advice on what works—and what doesn’t—so you can focus your efforts on tactics that get results. This book provides a unique self-inventory that helps you design your career around your key passions, transferable skills, and strengths to help you achieve career success!
E-Lin: One of my favourite podcasters and authors is organizational psychologist, Adam Grant. He takes research findings and turns them into actionable strategies that can make people more productive and successful in different aspects of life, not just work. A lot of his writing and speaking challenges our preconceived notions of success, leadership and work-life balance. His latest TED talk on languishing is also super relevant right now in this pandemic we're all in. You can find all of his books at the Toronto Public Library, including his latest book Think Again. I enjoyed them in the audiobook format but you can also find them in physical or electronic formats.
Career Coaches in Residence Kick-Off Event
Not sure what to ask our coaches? Interested in hearing their thoughts on upcoming labour market trends? Join us on Thursday, September 30th, at 6pm on Crowdcast for an interactive kick-off event! Ask them for career advice and learn more about the programs and workshops they'll be offering during their residency.
Catherine and E-Lin will appear in conversation with Ken Lee, one of TPL's 2020 Career Coaches in Residence.
The Career Coaches in Residence program is generously supported by RBC Foundation and with the support of several donors.